After watching the repugnant monster man in I Stand Alone, the brutal rape scene in Irréversible and the psychedelic weirdness of Enter the Void, one might expect Gaspar Noé’s latest film to be another assault on the eyeballs. But though the movie has been marketed as a gimmicky 3D porno, Love offers some softcore tenderness amidst its many hardcore scenes.
Essentially, Love is about an intense but thinly plotted breakup. Murphy (Karl Glusman) is an American film student who lost the love of his life (Aomi Muyock) by impregnating his young neighbor (Klara Kirstin). Don’t look for any likeable traits in Murphy. He lies, cheats on “the one” with a proud, pro-life teenager and regularly hurls nasty, misogynist insults.
What elevates the film is the sex itself. The script may be clunky, but the scenes of intimacy manage to capture the warmth, urgency and deep distress of a relationship in all of its stages. It’s here that the acting is surprisingly natural and, at times, effectively moving.
Noé’s emotional investment is obvious. He’s given Murphy his own ambitions as a filmmaker, named the son Gaspar and makes a brief appearance as a sleazy gallery owner. Critics may balk at the self-indulgence, but what is love if it’s not personal?
At two-plus hours, the film runs a tad long, and it’s a shame to watch it in two dimensions instead of three. Even without the 3D money shot, Noé has delivered a wholly unique movie-going experience.
Love screens at Ciné through Thursday, Nov. 19. For showtimes, see the Ciné website.